Exercise guidelines: what you need to know

Lander says that traditionally the guidelines surrounding exercise in pregnancy have been rather conservative, as little was known on the effects of exercise and pregnancy. However, she says, “more research in this area has shown significant benefits of exercise during pregnancy and thus the guidelines have been modified, although still conservative and cautious for regular exercisers”.

She refers to a study in 2002 which led to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists revising its guidelines regarding exercise for pregnant women and new moms. The ‘new’ guidelines essentially  meant that ‘exercising at a specific heart rate and duration is no longer a limit to exercise intensity’, this essentially allows pregnant women to exercise at a higher intensity and duration.

“Remember though that it’s always a good idea to listen to your body and if you are new to exercise it is recommended that you do not push yourself.  The concern for over- exertion during pregnancy is the elevation of maternal core body temperature which can negatively influence the foetal temperature.  Usually the mother will feel discomfort long before the baby does.  In saying that though, we should always keep in mind how hard the body is working at rest, thus the elevation in resting body temperature), in the development of the foetus.  Therefore we need to listen to our bodies,” she says.

It’s generally accepted now that if you are accustomed to exercising at a high intensity, a good way to judge your exercise effort level is to pay more attention to how you feel on the RPE scale of 6-20 (no effort to maximal effort), rather than gauging intensity via heart rate.

This is what some refer to as the ‘talk test’ which means that as long as you are able to talk comfortably and have no physical discomfort or unusual symptoms, then the intensity is most likely appropriate to you.

Symptoms that are a cause of concern during exercise are:
  • Pain
  • Contractions
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Leakage of amniotic fluid
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Persistent vomiting/nausea
  • Back pain, hip pain or pelvic pain
  • Difficulty walking
  • Oedema
  • Numbness
  • Visual disturbances
  • Decreased foetal activity

“All pregnant women should consult their obstetrician prior to starting or continuing exercise during pregnancy for medical clearance. However, because your body now houses a developing foetus and demands more oxygen, exercise intensity needs to be lowered as your pregnancy progresses, regardless of previous higher intensity exercise. Now is not the time to be racing!!”

What safety advice where you given during your pregnancy?

Read more on exercising while pregnant:

Exercising for two

Exercise guidelines for moms-to-be

Benefits of exercising during pregnancy

Exercises you should do during pregnancy

Exercise guidelines: what you need to know

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